Every weekday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., Lead Pastor Darrell Maston and his crew give out free coffee and hot chocolate from the parking lot of Center Church, at the corner of San Jose and Louise, directly across the street from Patrick Henry Middle School.
So what kind of hoop are they gonna try to make you jump through? After all, we're not talking drip here, we're talking cappuccinos and espressos.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this, so I headed to the portable coffee cart and peppered the boss man with questions.
What are you doing here, and why?
We are handing out free espresso drinks and hot chocolate, and on Thursdays we do Krispy Kremes, and it's all free. We roll out here about 6:30, get it set up by 7:00. We're doing it just 'cause we want to be a blessing to our community, and let them know we're here. People wonder why we're doing it, and it's pretty much as easy as that, just to be a blessing. Today we did 120 drinks in about 45 minutes time.
What impact does that have on the traffic around here?
If we did 120 drinks today, that might have been 60 cars or so off of the main boulevard, which is a crunch over here at San Jose and Louise. And they're able to drop their kids off as they go out the back exit of the church, and the kids can cross at the crosswalk. So it is getting cars off the street, and helping parents out with a drop off point that's safe.
It also lets people know that the church is here too, right?
Absolutely. The church has been here a long time; our team has been here a couple of years now, and so we're just kinda getting started. It took us a little while to get our bearings, and now we're doing lots of stuff. We're doing this every morning, tons of kids are coming over for our skate park in the afternoon, we have a student store and hang center/drop-in center after school, probably two or three hundred students every day here in our facility, and that's really cool. It gives them a safe haven to hang out until their parents pick them up.
And you do some music events as well?
We did a music series this year -- we did a jazz night, a Brazilian music night, our last one which was a big kick, a lot of fun, was our classic rock night, and this Saturday at 6:30 we have a Flamenco night. Incredible players. The group that's playing this Saturday has played for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and these guys are really well known around the L.A. basin.
And you're a music lover too, right?
Well, I'm a music lover, not necessarily a musician. I'm a hacker probably, but I do play drums. I'm glad we have real players that play here at the church. All of our worship band on Sundays are all professional guys that do this for a living and so we're really blessed to have some incredible players.
Why do you do these types of events?
I think sometimes there's a misconception of Christians, that they don't relate, or that they're not relevant in today's world, that we kind of live in this cloud that's out there and we don't relate to anybody. We're just kinda real people here. I'm not bagging on anybody else, but we just feel like God's put something incredible on us and can be shared in a way that isn't always in your face. We have a message, and we do our best to relate to people.
We're here to serve primarily. That's what my team does, we just serve, and we get a kick out of it. It used to be the case that a city was established with a church in the middle of it, and then they would build the city around the church. The church had influence and impact on the city. And then I think that over the years churches kinda got busy doing what churches do, and forgot about their community that was there that they were put in the middle to serve.
We're trying to re-establish that, going back to our roots of serving the community. So I think that people have a misperception -- that churches are just interested in building their little kingdom, always asking for money, that kinda stuff. Which is one of the reasons why we try to do as much as we can free, just sending of that vibe that hey, we are also giving in our community, we're not just here to do services and have people put money in the plate. We're giving back.
I'm going to be brutally candid with you...
Go for it.
And tell you my stereotype of Christians is, "We hate gay people, and we're here to support the Republican party." Those are my stereotypes of Christians. Now bust them down.
Wow, you're going for my throat! (laughs) I think it would be obvious that as a Christian the bible would be my standard of living. We have people in our church that are Democrats. I don't use my pulpit to be partisan. I don't preach politics, I preach the bible.
As far as gay issues, I know that there are certain churches that have been very vocal -- it might even come off as gay bashing. We don't do that. We believe that God created everyone. There are people that have made choices with their lifestyle, I do not judge that. I would do my best to talk with somebody, try to understand them, understand where a person's coming from. We've had gay people that have attended here. We had a lesbian couple that put their children in our programs, and we accepted them into our church and let them come in and worship with us and we have a family environment for them. What I teach has not been about dividing or cutting in terms of what we feel about people's choices as far as the gay lifestyle.
Okay, so do you have to be Christian to get coffee here?
Not at all.
And if I come and get coffee here for free are you going to try to convert me?
Not at all. We'll love you just like we love anyone else driving through. We don't ask about your spiritual or religious preference, or your lifestyle preference. We just give out the coffee.